Club Chairman Jon Jones has released the following statement
“Head Coach Jason Strange’s tenure as Head Coach of Ebbw Vale RFC has come to an end after 5 successful seasons, leading the Steelmen to 4 League titles and the runner up position in the Steelmen’s return to Premiership rugby in the 2014/15 season. Jason leaves Eugene Cross Park for the warmer climes of the WRU Centre of Excellence in the Vale of Glamorgan where he will take up a full time Skills Coaching role after spending the last 6 months performing the role on a part time basis.
During this period Jason led the club in 118 league games winning a phenomenal 103 of those playing an attractive and exciting brand of 15 man rugby that saw some superb tries being scored to the delight of the Steelmen’s ever vocal following. Despite his love of flowing back play, Jason ever the pragmatist was supportive of his forward coaching colleagues who developed the power play at scrum and line out time led expertly by his on field lieutenant Damian Hudd. On a Sunday, Jason will have often have watched the game 3 times as he dissected performance and prepared improvement strategies for the team and individuals. At this point I would also like to mention the support of his wife Amanda and daughter Ashleigh that enabled him to put so much time into making the club successful again.
Whilst many understand the on field success, the backbone of this continued progress has been creating an environment where players, coaches and officials have been continually challenged to improve their performance. Jason has been the driving force and key influencer in this change and has ensured that the culture at the club and foundations built in the last 5 years will enable his successors to inherit an excellent playing and coaching group.
The time and effort that Jason has put into not only the playing side but its wider relationship with schools, colleges and local clubs has ensured that rugby is again growing within the Blaenau Gwent community with Ebbw Vale RFC providing a route to top class semi professional and professional rugby for the aspirational players within the community. This ability to see the full picture of rugby within the community and the clubs important role in this is a further legacy that those remaining at Eugene Cross Park must pick up.
Although it is like losing my right arm, Jason goes with my blessing and that of all at the club ,as he needs the opportunity to take his undoubted coaching talent and test it in the elite game, I will miss his drive, enthusiasm, love of the club and long telephone calls as we have worked together to improve all aspects of the club.I am certain that he will still be a close friend and confidante to the club and myself and will still be seen at many of the Steelmens’ future games as much as his WRU duties allow.
I hope all take the time to thank Jason personally for leaving us in a much better condition than he found us.
The club are working towards making an announcement on its future coaching group for the season 2015/16 within a few days.”
And this is from Jason himself:
“The support from everyone during the last 5 years for myself as coach has been fantastic, its been a magnificent journey for the players and myself and an incredible achievement by everyone at the club, that’s still not really believable. Everyone in the area has been a part of it and we’ve done it together.
My time as head coach is something that I will always look back on in years to come with fondness and great memories. It’s a special club that means a lot to me, a club I watched as a child, the club that gave me an opportunity in the game first as a player and then a coach.
It’s been an enormous privilege to coach Ebbw Vale and I am exceptionally proud of how the team has added to the club’s history during this time. I am also exceptionally proud of how they have developed an extremely professional and enjoyable culture and environment. I want to say a special thank you to all the players who have played during this time, especially to Damien Hudd the long-term captain who has supported me from the very start and has been a model player.
The decision to leave is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly, however I feel it is the right time. It was important to me to leave the club in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so. The quality of this squad and the balance of experience within it, bodes well for continued success on the field, while the off field infrastructure at the club will ensure that the long-term future remains a bright one.This rugby club is now back where it should always be in the top flight of club rugby which, alongside gaining respect back, was always the number 1 objective.
I have loved my time at Ebbw Vale but when an opportunity like this comes round, it’s a professional challenge which is too good to turn down. I’m an ambitious coach and feel this is the right time to take on a challenge that I feel extremely excited about.
I am sure the next coach who comes in at the club will feel the warmth of the people like I have done and I am sure will go on and be successful as well. They will have an incredible group of players to work with, that represent everything you want your team to stand for and a group of supporters who are up there with the best in terms of loyalty. They will have a real genuine, honest group of hard-working coaches and people behind the scenes who will give them every opportunity to succeed.
And they will have directors of the club, and in particular a chairman Jonathon Jones, who will give them all the help he can. I have developed a great working relationship with him and equally a good friendship. We have always been open and honest with each other and that’s what has made this decision extremely difficult. I will miss his support and wise words of encouragement.
Both Ebbw Vale rugby club and myself are about to embark on new chapters, and will undoubtably face challenges along the way. But with continued hard work, commitment and a shared belief I have no doubt that success will continue to follow for both of us.”
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